Communication involves both understanding language (receptive skills) and providing information (expressive skills). The abilities of individuals with ASD vary widely, in that some children will have a good grasp of comprehension (e.g. “sit down”), but lack expressive skills (e.g. “my tummy hurts”) and vice versa. Many children with ASD experience difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, facial expressions and smiling. Children with ASD fail to understand words or phrases that are abstract (e.g. “we’ll go swimming later” or “I love you”) or phrases that have a double meaning. For example, if a teacher says to a child with ASD “clear the table” the child may go over and push everything off it. Or the person may interpret things very literally e.g. “give yourself a hand”.
Some children have Echolalia, which is the repetition of words, signs, phrases or sentences spoken by other people. Some children use this as a communication device. For example, an adult says “do you want a car?”and the child might say “want a car” which may mean “yes” or it may just be a repetition of the last words heard. A child may repeat the same phrase over and over again as a means of regulating their own behaviour, such as a child repeating aloud “time to clean up” while cleaning.